The dream of Finnish businessman and European art collector Poju Zabludowicz was to come to downtown Las Vegas and build a contemporary art museum. He and his wife, Anita, have been feverishly collecting art since the mid-1990s and had planned to privately fund and build the museum.
But, at least for now, that dream will not come true.
Likewise, the art community of Las Vegas is largely devastated and heartbroken.
Zabludowicz, chairman and chief executive officer of Tamares Group, withdrew his group’s proposal to build the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in an old fingerprinting building on East Fremont Street in the Las Vegas Entertainment District. He cited the poor economy for last week’s decision.
Although Tamares, which owns several Las Vegas downtown properties, including the Las Vegas Club and Plaza, still plans to open MOCA at some undefined future time, it’s just not in the cards now to invest $12 million in a nonprofit venture.
The City of Las Vegas also required that the museum be completed within two years, a timeline that didn’t work for Tamares.
The Zabludowicz Collection includes more than 1,000 works by emerging artists of the late 20th and 21st centuries. Some of those works had been planned to be brought to Las Vegas. The art centerpiece, titled the “Large Field Array,” would have been a permanent installation of about 8,000 square feet, being comprised of 300 sculptures by British artist Keith Tyson, who won the Turner Prize in 2002.
The City of Las Vegas has already contacted five other groups that previously submitted proposals for building on the site. Most of them were for nightclubs.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, who has long identified himself as a proponent of the arts, said that he doesn’t support a downtown art museum. “It’s not necessary to have an art museum. I want a mob museum,” said Goodman.